|October 23, 2013
Following La Puente pastor Eddie Romero’s audacious protest at the gates of the notorious Evin Prison in Iran Monday morning (10/21), his family has just received word that after being detained 32 hours by the government he is being deported back home to Los Angeles. Pastor Eddie had been staying at the Swiss Embassy in Tehran. A crowd of family, students, and supporters will gather to meet him at the airport TODAY. Location: Tom Bradley Terminal at Wednesday (10/23) at 5pm. Flight TK9 from Istanbul to LAX via Turkish Airlines. Pastor Eddie’s protest at Evin Prison was on behalf of five prisoners of faith and conscience who are being held there:
1. Farshid Fathi , Iranian Christian pastor
2. Saeed Abedini , naturalized American citizen from Iran who started an orphanage in Tehran and was arrested
3. Mostafa Bordbar, Christian activist
4. Alireza Seyyedian, member of the Christian house church
5. Mohammed Ali Dadkhah , prominent human rights lawyer in Tehran and co founder of Defenders of Human Rights in Iran
TONIGHT 7:00-7:30pm Following the welcome at the airport, there will be a reception for Pastor Eddie where he will make a few remarks at Hacienda Christian Fellowship
Today at 9:10am, Pastor Eddie Romero made a declaration of protest at the gates of the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran and surrendered to the authorities of the Iranian government.
Three days earlier, Thursday at 10pm in Tehran, Pastor Eddie left his tour group which had been sight seeing in the city of Tehran and went into hiding in the city in preparation for yesterday’s protest.
Details about his protest are still forthcoming, including the filming of the protest by a third party, which we hope to have in the next 24 hours. Pastor Eddie used Ustream to live stream his protest using an iphone he had hidden in his front pocket. There was about 6 minutes of video along with about 30 minutes of audio that was heard live last night at 10:30pm. A group of family and supporters gathered here at the church to witness this live event.
A few highlights from the audio include: Pastor Eddie making a declaration from the scripture Exodus 8:1 which states, “The Lord says, let my people go that they may worship me” as well as shouting repeatedly the names of the 5 Iranian prisoners whose unlawful detention he is protesting. He surrendered willingly and was taken inside the gates of the prison by a guard into a sort of waiting room. He was heard being questioned about where he was from by someone in English, and he was heard repeating his appeal for the prisoners 7 more times. Pastor Eddie was heard saying, “I am not here representing any country”, as well as speaking in both English and Spanish. At one point, they seemed to realize he had a phone that was turned on because he told them that their conversation was being broadcast “everywhere”. Our Farsi translator tells us that they guards seemed very confused and weren’t sure if he was really protesting or just trying to visit one of the prisoners. And they were heard making plans to bring in an English translator. At approximately 11:09pm our time, the phone call was cut off.
We do not know the current status of Pastor Eddie—where he has been taken or what is currently happening to him. His last known whereabouts were inside Evin Prison. But we can answer some of your questions regarding the nature of his protest and his reasons for it.
Pastor Eddie’s protest was peaceful, but direct. He raises his voice on behalf of prisoners of faith and conscience that are being detained by the government.
You may already know that Pastor Eddie protested and was detained at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing on behalf of jailed pastors and people of conscience. He was also arrested in 2012 in downtown LA at a protest against the then-vice president of China. In 2008, he founded an organization called Exodus8one whose mission it is to be a “voice for the voiceless”. The approach is that of direct engagement with governments through peaceful protest on behalf of people of faith who have been jailed without due process and separated from their families.
Pastor Eddie has a similar intent during his current project. The government of Iran has a well documented history of jailing religious minorities. Pastor Eddie hopes that his protest and surrender in a public manner will draw the attention of the watching world to the plight of jailed pastors and journalists in a country that has effectively closed its doors to human rights organizations and observers. His is a humanitarian plea, not only to the government of Iran, but also to the watching world that this kind of human rights abuse is inexcusable and intolerable in our global society.
Professor Romero intends to seek solidarity with these prisoners of conscience by his own peaceful surrender to the government. Specifically, he advocates for the following:
- Farshid Fathi , Iranian Christian pastor
- Saeed Abedini , naturalized American citizen from Iran who started an orphanage in Tehran and was arrested
- Mostafa Bordbar, Christian activist
- Alireza Seyyedian, member of the Christian house church
- Mohammed Ali Dadkhah , prominent human rights lawyer in Tehran and co founder of Defenders of Human Rights in Iran
Again, Pastor Eddie is asking for the release of these prisoners as well as for the for government of Iran to restore it’s former commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which they have already signed and ratified.
Lastly, Professor Romero was clear with me that his protest is not against the religion of Islam, nor against the people of Iran, who have rich history and culture to share with the rest of the world. In fact during his limited communication during the time of his hiding he had nothing but good things to say about how he was treated by the citizens of Iran.
His protest is against a government who claims “sovereignty” in order to close doors against outside observers such as organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. He hopes that his presence alongside prisoners of conscience will raise awareness of the human stories behind the issues we often hear about, as well as bring pressure to bear on the government itself.
I know that many would ask: “What’s a Chicano pastor from La Puente Ca doing on the other side of the world doing a protest all by himself in such a place?” Pastor Eddie’s answer is simple. Those Iranian pastors and men and women of faith are like family to him, even though he has never met them. They are his family, familia, because they belong to the same family of faith. He simply could not go into retirement and sit idly by while his brothers and his sisters waste away in prisons, missing their children’s birthdays, and enduring unspeakable abuse. He’s there to literally bother the Iranian government, like a gadfly bothering a horse. Some of you may know that Pastor Eddie even goes by the name of Gadfly on his website. Socrates once described Rome as a great a noble horse that needed to be stirred up by a kind of gadfly. My father, Pastor Eddie, is very well aware of his size in comparison to the impressive structure he’s up against. He sees the great nation of Iran as that noble steed. He seeks to simply bother them in the right direction. Pastor Eddie hopes for a future where any ordinary citizen, anywhere in the world feels that they can partake, through peaceful civil disobedience and advocacy, in seeking justice for the oppressed. And he hopes for a future where no government, no matter how intimidating they may be, will feel safe from the conscientious agitators of this world.
He is fully prepared to accept the consequences for his actions. His objective continues to be “a voice for the voiceless” to people of faith and conscience in Iran.
States routinely claim sovereignty – equating it to control over internal affairs without external interference – so they can do what they want. They have made this claim to sovereignty – however specious – to hide or deny mass murder, genocide, oppression, corruption, starvation, or gender-based persecution.—Amnesty International 2013 report Surely it is time to challenge this toxic mix of states’ claims to absolute sovereignty and their focus on national security rather than human rights and human security. Let’s have no more excuses. Now it is time for the international community to step up and reframe its duty to protect all global citizens. – see above “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, 16 April 1963, USA